The trend for individual governments to regulate, license and tax online gambling is now firmly established, especially in the more progressive environment of Europe, and that's a good thing, opined Roger Raatgever this week.
The energetic chief executive officer of veteran industry software developer Microgaming was speaking at the Isle of Man launch of his company's latest branded game The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, themed on the blockbuster movie trilogy The Lord of the Rings.
Raatgever believes that the strong move to regulatory instead of prohibitionary or monopolistic regimes is a positive evolution for the industry, and one which he intends to ensure benefits both his company and its licensees.
"Regulated markets are happening, and Microgaming will be at the forefront of those industry companies who are ready to meet the toughest licensing requirements for their licensees," he said.
"This is something we have been waiting for; and it will additionally enable us to dispel negative myths and misperceptions about the industry by demonstrating our professionalism and the considerable technological developments now available to defend against under-aged or problem gamblers, money laundering and other concerns of those who oppose internet gambling."
Microgaming is a respected and acknowledged pioneer in this dynamic global industry, and in the early ‘nineties was among the first to develop the ingenious software that enables companies to safely bring the action and excitement of gambling in its diverse forms to the punters' PCs, laptops and mobile phones via the internet.
The rapid development of underlying industry technologies has enabled Microgaming to build up an enviable reputation as a creator and purveyor of quality games – an inventory of around 500 at last count – and the complex back end administrative and marketing systems used by online casino, poker room and sportsbook operators who licence the software.
Working with associate company Spin3, it was also one of the first to start developing the mobile gambling business model and software, a global enterprise that is now gaining significant momentum and has been independently estimated to be worth $48 billion by 2015.
Raatgever says the company's approach is built upon a commitment to quality, a keen interest in what players want, technological progress and innovation. The company was the first to bring concepts like big money progressive jackpots, player accessible information on financial and betting records, mobile wagering, and the use of major movie and videogaming brands in slots to the online environment.
"There are many companies in this industry that are models of customer care, corporate governance, fiscal responsibility and professional business conduct, and we intend to remain among them in the new and exciting world of regulatory opportunity now opening up," he said.
Ensuring that the company retains the capability to do that, are development teams on nearly every continent around the world; an impressive talent pool of over 1,000 people. Raatgever presides over the group from his 80-employee head office in Douglas on the Isle of Man, a location ideally positioned in a geographic sense with an advanced communications infrastructure and a business-friendly legal environment.
Last week saw the opening of a newly refurbished live dealer studio providing feeds to service the growing demand around the world for live dealer gambling over the internet. As with all Microgaming initiatives, the objective is to extend the range of options available to licensees when areas of business opportunity are identified.
Given the size and success of the organisation, several industry analysts have on occasion speculated why Microgaming has not been publicly listed – a course taken by many smaller industry companies in the past.
Raatgever does not favour the idea, saying that the private company business model is best suited to his company, which has no need to go public to attract capital. "In fact I regard the private nature of our company as an absolute competitive advantage in that it enables us to maintain security on projects until we are ready to move to market," he says.
Similarly, there has been conjecture that Microgaming has the wherewithal to be both software provider and an operator in its own right, a proposition firmly discarded by Raatgever. "We are essentially a technology oriented company," he notes. "We prefer to stick to our knitting, which we know and do rather well, and leave the operational side to our licensees or partners," he says.
"We've had approaches, but we're not interested."
Finance Director John Coleman supports Raatgever, confirming that he has turned away many approaches: "You might say that we could be defined by the deals we have turned down in this area," he observes. "But we have our own imperatives, which are the provision of top product at a fair price, and a commitment to a service oriented partnership with our licensees."
Raatgever sees trends other than the moves to regulation ongoing in the industry, namely consolidation, technological convergence and the continued growth of strong competition; all areas which he has constantly under review, with planning and preparation dictated by ongoing research into player demands, technology advances and new gaming trends.
With one eye on the competition, Microgaming, in common with other providers, has adopted a more flexible approach in providing specific products to clients as well as complete packages. One area it has entered is the cross-platform trend whereby operators offer their players a range of games from different providers, all integrated into the same administrative platform. High profile operator Virgin Games is among the latest to advertise new games from Microgaming on its multi-provider platform.